Sunday, September 30, 2007

2 Youtube language lessons

A couple of slightly different approaches to teaching Chinese via the medium of Youtube...

I stumbled across this Youtuber today and thought the vids might be of interest to any fellow Chinese school drop-outs out there ;) ashunbuggie's lessons are at 'basic' level at the moment but maybe later on they will become more advanced:

And here's a slightly, um, different approach. You may not learn very much but it was funny anyway :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma: It does relate to us

Map: BBC News

In my earlier post, I said that I was writing about Burma (officially known as Myanmar) despite that fact that it was "not strictly to do with bbcs".

Well, that was actually a naive thing to say because, as you may have read in the media by now, Burma does have links to both the UK and China.

Burma's neighbour, China, plays a crucial role in this uprising. Its stance is the one that probably matters the most. However, China is also the main source of the Burmese military's arms. And the way China has dealt with Tibet, another Buddhist region calling for more freedoms and human rights, does not bode well.

It's not a nice thought but China may actually prefer to have an oppressed country run by a brutal, military dictatorship on its doorstep rather than a democratic state where Buddhist monks are seen as national leaders.

As for the UK's links, many high profile British companies have distanced themselves from the Burmese regime (so-called ethical shopping has really taken off in recent years) but UK-sourced investment remains high.

Natural gas, timber and tourism seem to be the main attractions for British business but vast amounts of murky business is also done via companies based in British offshore territories:
The UK is ranked the 2nd largest source of approved investment in Burma, estimated at a total of more than 1.2 billion dollars since 1988, largely because companies from all over the world have used UK overseas territories to channel investment to Burma. They are attracted to dependent territories by tax incentives and the lack of transparency. In addition, UNOCAL used the fact that it had invested in Burma via Bermuda to try to avoid being sued in US courts over human rights abuses.

“The British government could stop this kind of investment today, but refuses to do so,” said Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “The refusal to act is inexplicable, the government says it does not support trade and investment in Burma, but does nothing to stop it.”


The same campaign group published a list in 2003 of UK companies that have refused to say whether or not they source products from Burma.

Surprisingly the list contains a number of household names; bear in mind that this list is from 2003 and has not been updated, as far as I can tell:
Companies refusing to disclose if they source from Burma [in 2003]:

Bay Trading
By Design Plc
Ciro Citterio
First Sport
Jane Norman
Jeffrey Rogers
Jo Bloggs
Karen Millen
La Coste
LK Bennett
Miss Sixty
Pied a terre


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sweet Mandarin - the schools tour

The success of Helen Tse's bbc-themed novel Sweet Mandarin (currently sold in 33 countries) continues with an international schools tour. The ideas behind the tour such as teaching awareness of one's roots and "if I can do it so can you" certainly seem like positive messages to be taking to schools:

Well done, Helen!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Burma braced for mass protests led by Buddhist monks

This is not strictly to do with bbcs but the fast-moving events in Burma (officially known as Myanmar) could be an important development in one of Asia's longest running human rights issues.

Burma is ruled by a military regime that has been harshly criticized by activists for decades, and the leader of the democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, is one of the world's most well-known prisoners of conscience.

These latest protests seem to have been instigated not by politicians or activists but by the country's Buddhist monks, which will be significant in how the protests are resolved.

Are we about to see history being made in Burma?

The protests are getting a lot of coverage around the world. Here's one article from the Hong Kong Standard:

When 20,000 Buddhist monks, nuns and protesters marched through Rangoon's streets, a 50-year-old housewife broke into tears as she rushed to the sidewalk to cheer them on.

She said they were tears of joy because, like many in the country ruled with an iron fist by the military, she sees the monks as Burma's preeminent moral authority taking a stand on behalf of the people.

Fact of the day: Burma is the largest country by land area in mainland Southeast Asia.

Read the full article here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Nokia Mooncakes!

Check out these new Nokia mobile phones on sale in China.

They're a strictly limited edition and they only have one feature - they are mooncakes.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Black rain falls in Shenzhen

Part of Shenzhen had a graphic demonstration of the effects of man-made pollution last month. EastSouthWestNorth reports on the black rain showers that hit the region during August. The local government suspects ash and smog from local power stations is to blame.

If only all pollution resulted in such direct, immediate and visible consequences - then people might be more willing to do something about it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Am I the only bbc who has never eaten 'cha yip dan'?

I was browsing a Chinese cookery book when I saw a recipe for 'tea eggs': chicken and quail's eggs boiled in seasoned tea.

I'd actually never heard of these before and it was only after a bit of Googling that I discovered that 'cha yip dan', as they are called in Cantonese, are a common snack throughout Asia. In fact, Wikipedia says Taiwan's 7-Elevens sell millions of them.

How have I managed growing up as a bbc - including numerous trips to HK - and not eaten one, solitary tea egg? I thought I'd eaten everything! :)

So that's my latest mission: To get me some 'cha yip dan'. No idea when this will happen but I'll post some pics when it does. If you're interested in trying to make them yourself, this seems to be a good recipe.

HK ID cards - advice wanted

My post about old-style HK ID cards becoming invalid is still getting comments and one reader has asked for help regarding British National Overseas status if you don't have right of abode in Hong Kong.

If anyone thinks they can advise, please see the comments section in the post.



Monday, September 17, 2007

John Woo/Chow Yun Fat computer game: The inspiration

With ads for the new game 'Stranglehold' blitzing our tv screens at the moment, it seems appropriate to reminds ourselves of the original two-handed, guns-blazing, slow-motion movie carnage that inspired it, courtesy of Youtuber jax633:

And there's an interesting behind-the-scenes video here about how the game was made.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The First Emperor - BBC behind-the scenes documentary

What looks to be a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the current must-see exhibition at the British Museum is on right now.

BBC link.

I'll look out for a link if the show is available online.

Friday, September 14, 2007

FBI investigating 'college spies' in Chinese student associations?

This article was quite an eye-opener when I read it...

When you think of overseas Chinese student associations, you probably think of barbecues, badminton and other fun activities. What had never crossed my mind was the idea that a Chinese student association might be linked to and even managed by the Chinese Communist Party!

Surprising as it may sound, the FBI is said to be investigating the relationship between Chinese consulates and the leaders of Chinese student associations at American universities.

To be clear, this report is talking about official, overseas Chinese student associations not ABACUS or bbc-style uni social groups.

It's reported by the Epoch Times (a newspaper that is distributed free in London's Chinatown) that local Chinese consulates (which serve under the Chinese Communist Party) not only appoint the leaders of these associations but also control some of their activities turning some into quasi-spying operations on U.S. soil.

They quote Xu Shuiliang, editor of the Chinese Net Digest and a democracy activist:
"Almost all CSSAs [Chinese student asssociations] are under the control of Chinese Consulates and become part of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] special organizations. The CSSAs are not officially connected to the CCP but they work under the cover of social recreational activities.

According to Mr. Xu, not only American students, but also a lot of Chinese students, do not know about this. Of course, not all students in CSSAs are the CCP's members or special agents, but normally the leaders of CSSAs are appointed by the CCP.

This dates back to when the CCP was established, as it has always used underground groups such as union workers or students to achieve its goals."
The report says that the current FBI investigation has forced a number of students to return to China, presumably fearing that will be 'unmasked' as spies and arrested.

However, the students who are involved in these operations are usually not 'spies' in the sinister sense, but rather pawns in a game of espionage:
"According to Mr. Xu, many Chinese students don't really understand the system and laws in the United States and still live under the shadow of the CCP. They think the CCP can still provide protection for them in the United States, and they work for profit and out of fear.

These students may not even know what they do is illegal in America. They are also victims."
There are reports that some students disown their links to the student associations after graduating (removing their names from past member lists etc).

This second article is a more in-depth look at one particular student association in Minnesota and how it got caught up in the machinations of Chinese politics and the propaganda battle with the Falun Gong organization.

It does seem that the students in these cases face a dilemma: Do you disobey the Chinese consulate and risk intimidation or punishment of your relatives back home and harming your future prospects, or do you follow the consulate's orders (perhaps doing something you don't agree with), get in the party's good books but risk being 'outed' as a spy?


If it's standard practice amongst Chinese student associations in the U.S., does that mean the same thing happens here?

It's certainly strange to think that something that's seen as fun and non-political such a Chinese student association might be so closely linked to the Chinese Community Party!

Source 1: FBI Questions Chinese Student Leaders at Eastern U.S. Universities

Source 2: How the Chinese Consulate Took Control at the University of Minnesota

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Random Picture of the Day (or so)

I couldn't help smiling when I saw this picture on the Tube this morning :) It was one of a series of babies born with unusually copious amounts of hair. That's quite a 'fro Zoe has going on there! :) See link for more.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Has anyone seen this book on Canto slang?

If there is anything that marks us out bbcs as not native Hong Kongers (besides our haircuts, facial expressions, laughing at British sitcoms and other 'gwai sing'), it's not knowing or using Cantonese slang words.

And Hong Kongers are so damn good at slang, too. The phrases are inventive, clever and often hilarious. And, of course, they can also be a little intimidating if you don't understand any of them.

A short primer on Canto slang can be found here (Warning: There's some rude stuff in the 'Swearing' section!) but this is just the tip of the (damn) iceberg.

If you want to really, learn some cocky, Hong Kong street talk, you might want to try and track down a copy of A Dictionary of Cantonese Slang.

As one reviewer puts it:

I must inform everyone that Cantonese has the most vivid descriptions and usages of slang of the entire Chinese language (yet, being the least awful sounding). How do I know, because I was born in that wonderful city of Hong Kong! It's my native tongue, so trust me, we know how to slang in style.

Amazon only seems to have used copies available at the time of writing, so I'm going to have to keep on searching...


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A380 Superjumbo flies by HK

Cameras were out in force on Monday morning in HK as the Airbus A380 'superjumbo' performed a special, low-level fly by as part of this year's Hong Kong Air Show.

At one point, the plane appeared to be cruising lower than the top of the 2 IFC tower, Hong Kong's tallest building. Can't wait to fly to HK on one of these:

Pics from

Monday, September 03, 2007

MTR to bring expertise to London's ailing transport system

I've just caught the news reports about Hong Kong's ultra efficient and modern MTR being brought in to run a large part of the London public transport system.

In partnership with the British company Laing, MTR will take control of a new cross-city network that has been named the London Overground System. The network will stretch from Watford in the north to Crystal Palace in the South, and from Richmond in the west to Barking in the east. In other words, it's pretty major. This is the first time that Hong Kong's MTR has undertaken a project outside of China

Bbcs who have experienced the MTR will tell you how well-run it is compared to the London Tube (e.g. modern, clean trains and stations, almost non-existent delays, highly professional staff, Oyster-style touch cards being introduced years in advance, wi-fi on trains) and getting MTR involved in this project sounds like a great idea and good news for London.

However the Tube workers union the RMT opposes the deal. Now, if you live in London and have experienced the regular delays, poor service, unpleasant staff attitude and frequent strikes, you'll understand how the idea of a new company coming in which is both efficient and known for providing excellent customer service must terrify an organization like the RMT.

I say, MTR come on in! London needs you.


PS. The RMT started a 72hr strike today.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another reason never to fly Air China.

If the poor safety record wasn't enough to put you off, this snippet of a conversation between an Air China pilot and air traffic control should do it.